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  • Writer's pictureBen Maroco

Will Zalatoris WITB: Winner's Bag

IMage of Will Zalatoris WITB

Simply said, Will Zalatoris is a world-class ball striker. The 25-year-old is presently leading the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. He is ranked 18th in driving distance (311.2) and 9th in greens in regulation (74.6%).

Zalatoris arrived at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard as the most recent recipient of the Arnold Palmer Award, which is presented to the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. He also attended Palmer's alma institution, Wake Forest, on the Arnold Palmer Scholarship. We thought it was appropriate to delve into Zalatoris' bag and take a look at two equipment improvements that helped him in 2022 because of his special relationship to the founder of the tournament.

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In his three starts this year, he has finished second and sixth, and he is ranked 25th in the FedExCup in his debut season as a full-fledged PGA TOUR member. spoke with Titleist tour rep J.J. Van Wezenbeeck, who has worked closely with Zalatoris on his equipment since his amateur days, for that behind-the-scenes insight.

Will Zalatoris WITB: Previous Driver

Before making his PGA TOUR debut last season, Zalatoris utilized a shorter Titleist TSi3 9-degree driver to improve his accuracy. A shorter driver can frequently help golfers strike the center of the face more often.

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Zalatoris approached Van Wezenbeeck prior to the 2022 season about stretching his driver to get additional distance due to recent improvements in his golf stroke. Van Wezenbeeck and Zalatoris noticed they needed to decrease the shaft weight throughout the testing phase with longer drivers to ensure that adding length didn't add too much weight to the club. They also needed to alter the loft to lower the launch and lessen spin caused by the increased length and speed.

Will Zalatoris WITB: New Shaft

So, when they lengthened his driver to 45.625 inches, they changed the shaft from a Fujikura Speeder TR 757 to a Fujikura Speeder TR 661 shaft, which is roughly 10 grams lighter. They also used a TSi3 8-degree head instead of the 9-degree variant to help manage launch and spin.

Zalatoris was able to get the speed benefits of a longer driver without making it unmanageably heavy or sacrificing accuracy as a result of the alterations. Don't forget to make suitable weight concessions for amateur golfers who want to try out longer drives to gain distance. Clearly, the driver changes have worked for Zalatoris, and he has stated that he will not be changing drivers anytime soon.

"He obviously had a ton of success last year with the TSi3 9-degree that he had been using, but we had him in a shorter driver that really allowed him to control his golf ball," Van Wezenbeeck explained. "He was curious about what else was in the tank because he was swinging so much better."

"This week, he and I talked, and he was like, 'Man, this thing is just not leaving the bag, I'm driving it so great. This is where I'm going to stay.'"

Will Zalatoris WITB: New Iron Set

However, it's not simply the driver move that has improved Zalatoris' ball hitting. He's also added a new club to his iron set, which has increased both variation and consistency. Zalatoris' 4-9 irons are Titleist T100s, but his 3-iron is now a more forgiving T200 type.

The T100 irons, which are also utilized by Jordan Spieth on the PGA TOUR, are multi-material cavity back irons developed for players who want both precision and forgiveness. The T200 irons, which look similar to the T100 irons at address, are designed to help golfers achieve even more height and distance while also providing a little more forgiveness.

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According to Justin Ray of Twenty First Group, Bay Hill has produced more approach shots from 200-plus yards than any other course on the TOUR since 2016. Bay Hill's long par-3s and reachable par-5s contribute significantly to this. Zalatoris has previously struggled to find a 3-iron that launches high enough, according to Van Wezenbeeck. These issues have been addressed by the T200.

"When he hit the T200 for the first time, it launched higher, had a little more ball speed, he could take something off it and flight it," Van Wezenbeeck said. "It just made so many shots in his bag...." When he was still in college, I got to work with him for the first time in Riviera (for the 2015 Genesis Invitational). We had the task of making him something that launched over 6 degrees in a 3-iron. He was (striking) so hard. He was so fast, yet he was so down on himself that we wondered, 'How can we get him something that gets up in the air at all?'

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"He's done an incredible job of refining his swing from a very good amateur to a very, very good professional." I'm incredibly impressed with his facial control and ability to put the golf ball exactly where he wants it right now. It simply goes to demonstrate why he's developed into a world-class player."

It's no surprise that Zalatoris is presently leading the PGA TOUR in two key statistics; he's paired swing improvements with equipment changes to better fit his game. Zalatoris is preparing for a huge run in 2022.

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